published at Tuesday 11 March 2014

OVERCOMING CAREER HURDLES

World Champion hurdler and WISE ambassador Colin Jackson tells our Media Partner SportBusiness about how to break into the sports industry.

FOR ANYONE AFRAID to make the first step into the sports industry, rest assured, you are not alone. Anxiety around job-hunting in the sports indsutry does not discriminate and will impact the freshly-qualified graduate just as much as it will one the most decorated athletes in sporting history.

Will I get a job? Will I be accepted? Do I have the skills to last? Do I know enough about the specific sector of the business I am applying in? These are just some of creeping doubts that can enter the mind of anyone trying to find a job in sport.

One of the most effective ways of reducing that pressure is knowledge. It is for that reason that we launched our Course Notes last year; to give a behind-the-scenes look at the industry’s leading courses and the personalities who are currently enrolled on them.

Colin Jackson is a former 110-metres hurdler who can boast Commonwealth, World and European Championship gold medals. Since hanging up his spikes, he now works in the media alongside his role as ambassador for WISE, the international convention for careers in sports taking place on May 7-8 in Lausanne this year, and the event where SportBusiness International’s 2014 Postgraduate Sports Course Rankings will be announced (see box).

Having experienced more than a few moments of pressure on the track, Jackson has advice for some of our students profiled in this month’s Course Notes.

The difficulty is the anxiety that you put on yourself, he told SportBusiness International.

There is plenty of work out there if you stop being so anxious about it. That’s the first thing to remember.

I was lucky, I went straight from the track into the media, and then that extended to my educational programmes. I was passionate about the media work, which is obviously a massive factor in me driving forward.

What I have noticed from many sports people I have spoken to while working for WISE is that some have absolutely no idea what their skills are. They first need to establish what their main skill category is, and then learn how to sell themselves. This applies to everyone.

At the end of my career I wasn’t worrying about injuries so much, I was just thinking, ‘What am I going to do with the next 40 years of my life?’. It’s a daunting fact for someone switching careers as it makes you think about how much of your life you have lived already, and whether you can do it all over again. That is where the anxiety comes from.

Jackson, who first mastered the media world aged 20 when he began presenting on the airwaves of BBC Radio Wales, says there are some common goals to set regardless of whether you are a famous ex-sportsman or coming from a less glamorous background into the world of sport.

You have to look at the industry and identify what is out there for you, and then tailor your education package to suit it,” he says. A couple of my mates are weightlifters, and they wanted to set up a gym and found out it is not just about getting the finances in place, it’s about learning what is involved with running a business. How do you create supply and demand, what is the importance of location, and why would people actually use the gym in the first place?

You have to understand how an idea grows and develops, and then the next step is to manage it if you really want to make money.

Reputation, it seems, is also something that can work against you. For those students currently on courses who feel the likes of Jackson and other ex-professionals just need to turn up in order to get a job, think again.

It can definitely work against you, he says. People will have an opinion on you before you start. There is the perception that you can only be an expert in one field. I always tell all the ex-professional sports people I speak to, ‘Now you’ve got to realise that you are going to be a janitor in whatever you go into now, you are starting right from the beginning. Yes, your face may open a few doors, but the reality is that you have no idea, so learn’.